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United in Faith, Prayer and Love

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In the midst of evil, how does one offer love? Being with those in need is a start.

“I was raised with a high value on visiting people, especially when there was adversity,” wrote Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, upon his return from Iraqi Kurdistan in April. “A neighbor a block over had a fire; the next day we visited to see how they were doing and if they needed anything. Uncle Ed had eye surgery; we visited to make sure he was recovering. After my grandpa’s death, we visited my grandma a lot.”

The cardinal visited Iraqi Kurdistan “because,” he continued, “the Christian community there is family, a family in a lot of trouble, with much adversity, and to visit them is a very good thing.”

From 8 to 12 April, the cardinal, who chairs Catholic Near East Welfare Association, led a pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan to be with the families displaced from their homes in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plain since August 2014.

Just miles from the demarcation line separating these families from the forces of hate that have engulfed the region in a whirlwind of bloodshed, the cardinal and his delegation — which included CNEWA board member Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre and CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar — demonstrated CNEWA’s solidarity with the displaced and those committed to their care.

The cardinal and his delegation visited the camps, neighborhoods and villages that now offer shelter to the displaced. Pastoral visits included stops to the Martha Schmouny Clinic in the Ain Kawa area of Erbil; Al Bishara School in Erbil, where the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena now teach more than 680 displaced students; a youth center in Ain Kawa for a “town hall” conversation with families and community elders; St. Peter’s Seminary, which forms priests for the Chaldean Church; a clinic in Dohuk offering care to hundreds of displaced persons each day; and a visit to displaced families hunkered down in the remote village of Inishke.

With each visit, the delegation made time to listen, to counsel and to offer comfort.

United in faith, the displaced and the delegation together offered prayers and celebrated the Eucharist in the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic traditions.

The pastoral visit highlighted the efforts of parishioners, religious sisters, parish priests and bishops who have partnered with CNEWA in setting up nurseries, schools and clinics, apostolates of the church that not only heal and educate, but provide a source of hope.

“One of my hopes for this pastoral visit,” said CNEWA’s Msgr. Kozar, “was to highlight CNEWA’s unique role in coordinating worldwide Catholic aid, on behalf of the Holy Father, and deploying that aid through the local church to those most in need.”

“The reality experienced during our mission was paradoxical,” said delegation member Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, “a combination of great sadness, loss, frustration and anger and also great faith, hope and life.

“Both realities were pervasive,” he added, and often expressed by the same people.”

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